UK to allow Huawei limited role in 5G infrastructure as it sets out plans for network safeguards

29 Jan 2020

Chinese vendor Huawei Technologies will be able to play a part in the rollout of 5G technology in the UK, after the British government set out new plans ostensibly designed to safeguard the nation’s telecoms infrastructure. In a press release the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) confirmed that ministers had determined that UK operators should put in place additional safeguards and exclude ‘high risk’ vendors – such as Huawei – from parts of the telecoms network that are deemed critical to security.

Following a meeting of the country’s National Security Council (NSC) it was reportedly agreed that the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) should issue guidance to UK telecoms operators on high risk vendors following the conclusions of the Telecoms Supply Chain Review. The agency’s advice is that such vendors should be: excluded from all safety related and safety critical networks in Critical National Infrastructure; excluded from security critical ‘core’ functions, the sensitive part of the network; excluded from sensitive geographic locations, such as nuclear sites and military bases; and limited to a minority presence of no more than 35% in the periphery of the access network, which connects devices and equipment to mobile phone masts. With regards to the next steps, the DCMS noted: ‘The government will now seek to legislate at the earliest opportunity to put in place the powers necessary to implement this tough new telecoms security framework.’

In the wake of the announcement, Huawei’s chief executive Victor Zhang was cited by the BBC as saying: ‘Huawei is reassured by the UK government’s confirmation that we can continue working with our customers to keep the 5G rollout on track.’